The prospect of joining the Catholic Church can seem intimidating to some and lead to the feeling of being overwhelmed or lost. You may ask: where do I even start? Do not worry, A Catholic’s Perspective is here to help! This thoughtful guide is full of Christocentric advice on how to grow in faith during the initial RCIA Inquiry stage.
The RCIA inquiry stage is the starting place for adults thinking about entering the Catholic Church – you are not alone. The inquiry stage is like a state of heightened curiosity. Your interest is piqued, so you are searching for answers to questions concerning Jesus Christ and His Church. The best advice for someone in your shoes is to ask questions and not be afraid to talk to people. No one would buy a car without talking to other people who own the same model, so why would you enter the Church without consulting its members.
At this point, your spiritual journey has not progressed far enough to make a lifetime decision. The main objective is to try to expose yourself to the practice of Catholic life and to seek to encounter the Lord. The RCIA Inquiry stage is a kind of get to know you period for you, Jesus, and the Church. You should take full advantage of it because it is the only way to make the best decision!
At The Center Of The RCIA Inquiry Stage Is A Person, Jesus
During the RCIA Inquiry stage, you only have one task, and that is to ask some basic questions such as: who is God, and why did God make me? For Catholics, Jesus is the answer to all of the problems and questions of life. He stands at the center of the Faith of the Church, so he should be the focal point of our lives.
The Good News of Catholicism (and the core of the Gospel) is that God became man so that we may become God. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, became man so we could know, love, and serve God in this life and be happy with him in the next. Your time in the RCIA Inquiry stage should focus on getting to know Jesus and falling in love with him – settle for nothing less.
In the Gospel of Luke (Lk 2:19), there is a story about Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds, which should be the model for this stage in the RCIA process. In it, the shepherds recount to Mary and Joseph how they had seen angels proclaiming the birth of Christ, and, as St Luke says, Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart. Let Mary be your guide throughout this time. Adopt her attitude of joyful contemplation and ask the hard questions about what Catholics believe, pondering them in your heart to see if you agree.
A 3 Step Action Plan For The RCIA Inquiry Stage:
- Ask the basic questions, such as:
- Who is God?
- Why did God make me?
- Does God exist?
- If God is real, how will I respond?
- Why do I exist?
- Does life have meaning?
- Who is Jesus?
- What do I think of him?
- Can I have a personal relationship with Jesus?
- Is Christ the only way?
- Why call God Father?
- What is the Catholic Church, and why should I enter it?
- Why do I keep doing things I know to be wrong?
- How should I live?
- Listen to the Catholic response.
- Contemplate the answers, pondering them in your heart
Practical Advice for RCIA Inquiry Stage
Ask Questions: As has been the theme throughout this article, the single best piece of advice is to be inquisitive. Pursue the truth relentlessly, and do not settle for any else. You need to match the intensity of the Hound of Heaven (God) from the poem by Francis Thompson that chases down the lost soul! Remember, this process is about falling in love!
Excerpt, The Hound Of Heaven By Francis Thompson (1890)
I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;
I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears
l hid from Him, and under running laughter.
Up vistaed hopes I sped;
And shot, precipitated,
down Titanic glooms of chasmèd fears,
From those strong Feet that followed, followed after.
But with unhurrying chase,
And unperturbèd pace,
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
They beat-and a Voice beat
More instant than the Feet-
‘All things betray thee, who betrayest Me.’
Find A Guide: In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus told them a parable: Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will both not fall into a pit? You will need a guid too. No one sets out on a journey without a map, but the truly wise hire someone experienced to lead. In the RCIA Inquiry stage will find this help invaluable.
As mentioned in the Catholic RCIA stages article, you want to make sure you find an orthodox guide. It should be someone who accepts and practices the fullness of Catholicism (more on that here). Your spiritual journey and your relationship with the Church are too vital to entrust to someone who is not giving you accurate information. Find a guide who will faithfully present to you the Faith of Jesus Christ in its fullness.
Read Voraciously: In the end, you will make a lifetime commitment to Christ and His Church, so be prepared for it. Once you have entered the Church, learning does not stop. A Catholic’s Perspective has you covered with the Catholic Lifetime Reading Plan.
A good guidebook for those beginning the RCIA Inquiry stage is Here. Now. by Amy Welborn. She writes clearly and is very readable. Importantly, though, she follows the roadmap in this article: ask questions and ask them incessantly.
An orthodox and faithful Catholic, Welborn’s book will benefit everyone, even lifelong Catholics. She covers everything from Jesus and His impact on life to the purpose of faith and the Church. Read it, and you will not be sorry!
She also has a short series of books for those struggling to believe, the Prove It series. While a bit more simplistic, these quick reads address topics like:
- Prove it! God – Answers questions about God, the Catholic Church, other religions, evolution, good and evil, and a whole bunch of other things.
- Prove it! Jesus – What do we really know about Jesus? How do we know it? Why does the Church say things about Jesus that other Christians don’t agree with?
- Prove it! Church – Answers questions about the Church, including what it means to be saved.
- Prove it! Prayer – Why didn’t God answer my prayers? What’s the best way to pray? Does praying do any good at all?
For something more advanced, check out The Narrow Gate by Federico Suarez. A collection of lectures, the book is meant for those who are already Catholic and are struggling with some of its most challenging aspects. It is an invitation to the reader to live discipleship more deeply.
If you think you have passed the starting point already, The Narrow Gate might be for you. His heavy use of the Scriptures illustrates how radical discipleship can impact the world today. If you want to deepen your faith or knowledge of scripture, you should give this book a good look.
Feast on the Scripture: Remember the maxim, ignorance of scripture is ignorance of Christ, so feast on Sacred Scripture. Aside from the Holy Eucharist, it is the preeminent place for you to meet the living Christ.
A place to start is to commit to yourself to finish one of the Gospels, even if you just read for 15 minutes a day. Though difficult, as you digest small chunks, you’ll realize you can do it. Do not worry things will click soon!
Another problem you may face is that the Bible can seem foreign to the modern ear. It can be challenging to understand what to take literally or figuratively, plus there are countless strange words and customs. A Catholic’s Perspective recommends the Navarre Bible Series as your faithful guide. Featuring informative commentary, side by side with the scripture it is an invaluable tool.
A gift from God, the Bible is essential reading for every Catholic. If you are nervous and think you will not understand, do not worry. Start with the easiest to understand, Matthew, and then work your way through Luke, Mark, and John – in that order. Well worth the effort, the Bible is a treasure house of faith and virtue.
Pray Often: Just as in life you cannot live without breathing in the spiritual life one cannot flourish without prayer. It is indispensable because you cannot know Jesus Christ until you have met Him, and we meet Him in prayer.
Essentially, prayer is a meeting with Christ. St John Vianney, patron saint of priests, described prayer by saying, I look at him, and he looks at me. At its core, prayer is listening to the voice of God, conversing with Him, and just resting in His presence. Remember this rule: no one can grow in the spiritual life if they do not spend time with Jesus in prayer.
Here are two methods to get you started:
- First, as you read a Gospel, take note of any passage that strikes you and mark that as a passage for prayer. Re-read it slowly and notice the phrase or verse that moves you. Then, pause and reflect. Ask God what He may be trying to tell you about Himself or you. Sit with it for some time. Then, return to God, and thank Him for the time He spent with you.
- Second, start with just talking to God. Brother Andre used to call this the Practice of the Presence of God. As you go throughout your day, talk to God, have little chats with Him, dedicate all your actions to Him, and ask for his blessing. Before you know it, you will always be praying!
When To Move On From The RCIA Inquiry Stage
During your time in this stage, you have been asking questions, listening to answers, and contemplating the responses to see if Catholicism is for you. Now is the time to look inward and honestly see if there is a budding desire to live the Faith of the Church. It does not have to be overwhelming, but there should be some basics. For example, a regular practice of prayer and a developing spiritual life and an understanding of the basics of the Faith.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Do I want God to be the center of my life?
- Do I want to do the will of God above all else?
- Am I aware that God calls me, and am I willing to respond?
- Do I want to seek a loving union with Christ as the way to the Father?
- Am I becoming aware of my sinfulness with a corresponding sorrow?
- Have I been praying regularly?
- Am I aware of what it means to live the Christian life, and do I have the support structure to succeed?
- Do I want to be a member of Christ’s Church, which I recognize as the vehicle for salvation?
- Do I have a hunger for Christ’s presence – have I begun to fall in love?
If you answered yes to most of those questions, it could be time to move to the next step. You must recognize that God may call you to make more changes in your life as you move to the next stage of the RCIA, the Catechumenate.
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